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Being a Woman and a Leader: It’s Challenging but Achievable

Being a Woman and a Leader: It’s Challenging but Achievable

Ladies, this isn’t news to us. As a woman in the work force you need to work twice as hard, be twice as successful, twice as creative, and be twice as productive as the men in your field just to even be recognized as a valuable asset to your company. The stakes are even higher as a woman in a leadership position.

Women have gained their place in the work force, even if men are still trying to shake us out.

Women still struggle with the stigma of their place being “at home.” But in less than a century, we have made great strides in staking our place with the big boys.

Females didn’t start entering the work force until after the civil war.[1] Women of color had to support themselves in their newly gained freedom, and female immigrants began to follow suit. Housewives started seeking work as well to help out with the costs of a post-war household. The pay was awful, significantly less than what their male counterparts earned. And the working conditions were dangerous and grueling.

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During World War II, women took on a stronger role in the work force, taking up vacant jobs left behind by their deployed husbands and male associates. But as soon as the war was over, the men wanted their jobs back. This was a confusing time for women because now they didn’t know their place. Some retreated back to the housewife regime, while many refused to give up the positions they’ve earned.

From then it’s been nothing short of an uphill battle for women. And although we have more than proved ourselves, we are constantly undermined and disrespected by men and women alike while in positions of power.

If tactfully approached, women can still be successful leaders.

The fight is long from over, but we strong, independent, intimidating women can practice a few methods in order to alleviate the fragile egos of our male coworkers and in this case, employees. We need to back off of the power play and emphasis of what’s fair, and focus on a common goal. In order to be a good leader, you need to gain the respect of your team and make them want to follow you.

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Strong women in the work force are unsettling and threatening to many men, and even some women who harbor the outdated ideology that men are stronger and smarter. We have to be very tactful when giving direction so that we don’t come off as too “aggressive.”

Here are some nice hand-holding methods to ensure that men don’t feel belittled or undermined when a woman leader is telling them what to do.

Build a strong community of women leaders and workers, and advocate for each other.

There is strength in numbers. Typically women who advocate for themselves are viewed as attention seeking, and overzealous. It’s not “normal” for women to behave this way, and therefore receives a lot of negativity. Ladies, let’s be real. We cut each other down for this and it needs to stop. Instead, we need to build each other up. Glorify each other for our accomplishments.[2] Recommend one another. And when you feel daring enough to advocate for yourself, leave yourself open to resources so that you don’t appear closed-minded or “threatening.”

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Rise to power when the resources and timing is right.

There’s a reason why women rarely hold executive positions in small companies.[3] But in larger corporations, there are more positions and opportunities for females to rise to the top. In addition to this, timing is everything. If your company is looking to make changes and move in a new direction, it’s time to pounce. There is a small window of opportunity here to have your ideas heard and accepted.

Level with your employees- ask, don’t tell.

No one likes being told what to do. And men definitely don’t like being bossed around by a woman unless there’s dinner and a massage in it for them later. So instead of being direct and bossy, try and level with them.[4] Instead of saying, “have this in by Thursday,” try saying, “Can you have this in by Thursday?” They’ll be thinking to themselves, “well of course I can.” But you gave them the option and took the pressure off a bit.

Be slightly indirect when voicing an opinion.

I can’t stress this enough, we’re walking around on egg shells here. If you see a glaring issue, it can only be addressed if you do it nicely. Instead of saying, “this is horrible and must be remedied at once,” try something a bit more lax like, “I think we have an opportunity to make this better. We’re almost there!” Positivity and indirect candy-coated criticism will get you far.

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Overuse punctuation and smiley faces to seem more approachable.

When administering or replying to a memo, overuse exclamation points and smiley faces to ensure that your readers know that you are an approachable and friendly person. The simple use of commas and periods are too blunt and can be threatening to unsuspecting employees.

When someone regurgitates what you said or told them, just take it with a grain of salt.

Let them run with your idea, it has to get out there somehow. Instead of correcting them, informing them that you had already said that exact same thing, expand on it more to add to the conversation. Now people are listening, now you will be heard.

Featured photo credit: Stocksnap via stocksnap.io

Reference

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Jenn Beach

Traveling vagabond, freelance writer, & plantbased food enthusiast.

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Last Updated on February 18, 2019

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

How to Motivate Employees and Boost Team Productivity

These days, in a world with cognitive, AI, and extraordinary advances, we have failed at the most basic stimulus: motivation. Why do I say so? Just take a look at these statistics:

58 percent of managers said they didn’t receive any management training as per a CareerBuilder.com survey. Only 12% of employees leave their jobs because of more money. Research indicates that around 80% of employees leave their jobs due to “lack of appreciation”. Due to fear of failing, more than half of American workers don’t take their paid vacations. 53% of Americans are unhappy at work (not engaged). And 1 in 3 are working in a field they don’t like.[1]

Archaic people management and HR structures are the root cause.

“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up the men to gather wood, divide the work, and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery

So how to motivate employees and boost team productivity?

Here are 3 key things that you can do to motivate your employees and boost team productivity:

1. Run Your Team/Group/Company like a Lean Startup

The Lean Startup phenomena by Eric Ries has been socialized across millions all over the globe. In a nutshell, it is a methodology for developing businesses and products, which aims to shorten product development cycles and rapidly discover if a proposed business model is viable; this is achieved by adopting a combination of business-hypothesis-driven experimentation, iterative product releases, and validated learning.[2]

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Encourage Your Employees

When you empower your employees (or family members) to do what they deem to be best for a particular roadblock, idea, or improvement, you create magic. You create genuine trust. You enable innovation. The result is happy, inspired employees who feel they have a say in the grand cosmic stage at work.

Note that increasing the competency level of employees and coaching and mentoring them along the way is key. You yourself, need to do the same. Nourish your brain – and get a mentor that will keep you at the edge of your game.

Offer Rewards

Motivation is also intrinsic. The startups I have worked at offered instant rewards — not just fat checks or equity increments, but Oscar-style nominations.

The non-monetary rewards were actually more coveted, and grandiose: lunch with the CEO, tickets to an Obama fund-raiser, horse-back riding with a world-class equestrian.

Compare this to a dodgy, corporate, white-cubicle dinosaur that had a “yearly performance review” where both parties dread the conversation. In a world of instant WhatsApp messages, having a conversation about performance, likes and dislikes cannot just happen annually in 60 minutes. Employees need to be rooted in the belief that their manager genuinely cares about them.

Give Autonomy

Another key attribute is autonomy. Most employees start brushing their resumes and cruising LinkedIn when their hands are tied in their current positions: approval forms, long meetings, escalations, and more meetings. In the world of agile and scrum masters, deliberating for the sake of deliberating is poison. You will choke the very employees that giddily accepted the job initially to “change the world”.

Within a reasonable realm of assessment and deep-dives, trust your employees to do the heavy lifting. Give them access to the knowledge, people and resources that help them directly make the choices that will shape the future of your team, and your company.

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Eliminate yourself as the bottleneck – and interject yourself as a benevolent, servant leader that is the symbol of high-performing organizations.

2. Apply the 90/90/1 Rule

I recently saw a video by Deepak Sharma (a leadership adviser) about productivity and this principle stuck with me. Here’s what it’s about:

Devote the First 90 Minutes of Your Day to Important Project

For the next 90 days, devote the first 90 minutes of your day to your most important project—nothing else. Do this for yourself and your employees.

We usually get sucked into the most wasteful, operational activities in the morning which robs our focus, and steers us into an unwanted rabbit hole. So mute your notifications, avoid the temptation to check your exploding inbox, and scroll your Instagram feed later. Instead, focus on that ONE thing that will provide real value to you, your team, or your business/company/home.

Apply this rule to yourself – and your team. Your team will thank you. Note: If you’re feeling really stretched for time, you can always hack the rule by testing out a “45/45/1” version.

A To Do Scheduling System

Another version of this is to use the Kanban concept, developed by Taiichi Ohno, an industrial engineer at Toyota. Kanban is a scheduling system employing boards and cards.

The most basic version is a canvas with “To-do”, “Doing”, and “Done” boards (or columns). Each activity or task is a “card” that moves from one column to the other. I use Trello (a Kanban-inspired app) that is a key system for my personal and professional life. It allows me to understand my workload, their priority, and due dates.

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I use importance and effort metrics (scores) for each task to understand what is truly necessary in my life to work on. It negates the FIFO (first-in, first out) paradox that has plagued millions of people. Instead, it allows me to take stock of what is on my plate, and then bite on what truly will move the needle for me, my team, my life, and my company.

With a limited appetite (at least for some), would you eat the veggies, fries, mashed potatoes and leave the sizzling steak? No, you wouldn’t (unless you are a vegan and ended up in the wrong restaurant).

Approach your work with a weighted vengeance – and encourage your team to do the same.

3. Align Passion and Skills to Purpose

The heart of human excellence often begins to beat when you discover a pursuit that absorbs you, frees you, challenges you, and gives you a sense of meaning, joy and passion.

“The most fortunate people on earth are those who have found a calling that’s bigger than they are—that moves them and fills their lives with constant passion, aliveness, and growth.” — Richard Leider

An ace team-member once told me that while she enjoys working for the company we both used to work at, she really hated anything to do with technology. She was more of a “people” person, and did not want to sit behind a desk sifting through lines of code.

What struck me was that she was in that role for more than a decade and had just spoken up. The good thing is she spoke up. She expressed her desire and interests. And it allowed her to get into a role of her liking within 30 days.

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Ask If They like What They’re Doing

If you, or a team member is frustrated, demotivated, or not performing at their best – one of the questions you should ask is whether they like what they are doing. Then genuinely try to help them get to the role they should be in (whether in the same team/company or not).

There’s a reason why 53% of Americans (and perhaps more or same across the globe) are unhappy at work. A butcher cannot be an ace salad maker. Pursue your passion – and help pave the way for your team. Unlock your potential and theirs. You will command and lead a supercharged team.

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.” – Steve Jobs

The Bottom Line

Sometimes, passion has to be ignited. It is dormant, clouded by busy-ness, buried by wrong career choices, and plagued by non-supportive eco-systems. Some will climb out of it, but we as society — and in the case of business teams — incumbent upon the manager/CEO/leader to foster, grow, and nurture the employee.

Teach her the ropes. Show her the path. Advise him as you would yourself. Let them lead, and make mistakes. Do not fear them, rather make them the leader you would want to become.

For your not-so-great team members, understand that it is not personal, it is just not a good fit. Help them move on to the pastures they would be fit to graze on. Hence, hire slow (and fire fast).

Your team is a reflection of you. Boosting their confidence and helping them achieve the impossible is motivation. Focus on that, and you will have a productive team that you and your company will be proud of.

More Resources About Team Management

Featured photo credit: rawpixel via unsplash.com

Reference

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